Amy from We Are Never Full (one of my favourite blogs) mentioned in her last post how she hates it when idiots ruin a dish then try to call it “authentic”. I’d have to say I’m totally on-board with her on that, but at the same time I do enjoy coming up with my own ways of making things.
For most of these creative endeavors I caveat the post with something along the lines of “inspired by”. This dish however has its roots firmly planted in my New York apartment, yet I could totally picture it being served in an Okinawan noodle bar. Okinawa is the southern-most island of Japan, just a stones-throw from Taiwan and their food takes cues from their neighbors, using a lot of pork and fish.
Rather than using a traditional dashi based soup stock for udon, I’ve combined some braising liquid from the pork belly kakuni I made the other night with dashi to create a tasty, though unconventional broth for the noodles. If you’re a ramen maniac or an udon fanatic (or better yet, both), this may be your perfect bowl of noodle soup as it falls somewhere in between the two while tasting entirely different from either
I used Sanuki Udon noodles which are much thinner than other types of udon, yet they have a pleasantly firm texture when cooked al dente. The soup has a deep almost indescribable savory flavor met right in the middle by a subtle sweetness and a mellow zing coming from the long-cooked ginger. It’s inexplicably light, yet rich at the same time. The slices of pork on top start melting like butter on contact with the hot soup. Putting a slice in your mouth gives it just the nudge it needs to sublimate into a pool of rich meaty goodness.
I know it’s not every day you have Japanese braised pork laying around, but to be honest, I actually made the pork last night with the intent to make this udon today (yes, it’s THAT good).
Put the dashi and braising liquid in a pot and simmer. Taste the soup adding up to 2 tablespoons of soy sauce if needed. If after adding 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, it’s still not salty enough, supplement with salt until you’re happy.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Following the package instructions, boil the udon until about 1 minute before they are done. For example, if the directions say to cook for 6 minutes, boil them for 5. This is because the noodles continue to cook once you add them to the soup.
Drain the udon and give it a quick rinse to get rid of any extra starch. Put the noodles in 2 bowls, top with 4 slices of pork belly each, scatter some scallions on top then laddle the hot soup over everything. Other great toppings include baby mizuna greens (pictured), enoki mushrooms (pictured), or a poached egg. Serve with a little white pepper to sprinkle on top.